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The Queen of My Self

Her long walk led to a period of concentrated inner questioning about what she, one person, could do in the cause of peace. This midlife meditation culminated in her experiencing a powerful spiritual vision, an undeniable epiphany. She came to understand that it was her destiny to be “a wanderer until mankind has learned the ways of peace.”

I then saw in my mind’s eye, myself walking along and wearing the garb of my mission…I saw a map of the United States with the large cities marked – and it was as though someone had taken a colored crayon and marked a zigzag line across, coast to coast and border to border, from Los Angeles to New York City. I knew what I was to do. I will talk to everyone who will listen to me about the way to peace. I’m even planning to wear a sign, the back of which will read, “Walking Coast to Coast for Peace” and the front, “Peace Pilgrim.”

She gave away all of her possessions — including her name — and prepared to embark upon the incredible pilgrimage that she would maintain for the rest of her life.

Step by Step…Mile by Mile…Walking…Marching…Dancing
 Becoming a moving force for peace.

-QMD

On the morning of January 1, 1953 at age 44, Mildred Norman Ryder adopted the name Peace Pilgrim, put on a pair of sneakers, donned dark blue slacks, blouse, and a tunic — blue being the international color for peace — and set out from Pasadena, California to walk the length of the country. She pledged to walk until she was given shelter and to fast until she was offered food.

She marched ahead of the Rose Parade where thousands of people could see her off on her way. Her tunic bore her name, Peace Pilgrim, on the front and the back was printed with her goal: 10,000 Miles for World Peace. She carried her few belongings — a comb, a toothbrush, a pen, some postal stamps and nothing else, not a penny — in its pockets.

Peace Pilgrim stepped out for peace on faith alone, and in so doing, undertook a daring and groundbreaking feat that represented enormous moral courage. On that first trip, in the midst of the Korean War, the Cold War, and at the height of the McCarthy era, she walked 5,000 miles from California to New York, from coast to coast and from border to border, sharing her message of peace.

No one walks so safely as one who walks humbly and harmlessly with great love and great faith. For such a person gets through to the good in others (and there is good in everyone), and therefore cannot be harmed. This works between individuals, it works between groups and it would work between nations if nations had the courage to try it.

She gave everyone she met a printed explanation of her walk that bore the simple message. “This is the way to peace — overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.” She rarely missed more than three meals before she was offered food. If she was not offered shelter, she slept in fields, under bridges, and on more than one occasion, in jail.

During her 28 years on the road, Queen Peace far exceeded her original mile-goal. When she passed the 25,000-mile mark, she stopped counting, but she continued to walk for 17 more years. She went through 29 pairs of sneakers, averaging 1500 miles per pair. At that rate, she walked about 43,500 miles.

By the time of her death in 1981, she had walked across the United States seven times, visited ten Canadian provinces and parts of Mexico, spreading her hopeful message of peace and inspiration to the countless thousands of folks who crossed her extraordinary path.

Peace Pilgrim is my shero. I can only pray for the wisdom and determination to follow in her footsteps.

“To attain inner peace you must actually give your life, not just your possessions. When you at last give your life — bringing into alignment your beliefs and the way you live — then, and only then, can you begin to find inner peace.”

                                   — Peace Pilgrim

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

I have found my favorite model of the Queen in the life of a remarkable woman known as Peace Pilgrim who devoted almost thirty years of her life to walking and talking for peace.

Born Mildred Lisette Norman in 1908 on a small poultry farm in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. She was the oldest of three children in a loving, close-knit, extended family of nine.

The Norman ancestors had fled Germany for America in the mid-19th century to escape conflict and militarism. Her parents instilled a strong peace ethic in their children, encouraging discussion of social and political issues, and pursuit of moral questions. The family considered themselves “free-thinkers” who sought answers through reason and logic.

After her high school graduation, Mildred Norman took secretarial jobs. As a young adult, she led an active social life and at the age of 25 she eloped with Stanley Ryder, a businessman. They were very mismatched and the marriage was fractious from the start. Stanley wanted a traditional domestic life and children; Mildred did not. He liked to drink, Mildred did not. Stanley believed in war, Mildred did not. With each passing year, the couple grew further apart.

Ironically, during the Great Depression Mildred learned that making money was easy, and that spending it foolishly was completely meaningless. She knew that this was not her destiny, but did not know what was.

She did know, however, that she was dissatisfied with her life. She was increasingly uncomfortable about having so much while others were starving. In 1938 she spent an entire night walking through the woods praying for guidance to discover her calling, and she underwent a profound spiritual experience awakening,

I felt a complete willingness, without any reservations, to give my life – to dedicate my life – to service. “If you can use me for anything, please use me!” I prayed to God. “Here I am-take all of me; use me as you will. I withhold nothing.” Then a great peace came over me. I experienced a complete willingness without reservations whatsoever, to give my life to something beyond my self.

Thus began a 15-year period of intense inner transformation. She said, “I tell you it’s a point of no return. After that, you can never go back to completely self-centered living.”

For the entire decade of the 1940s, Mildred searched diligently for the service that she felt she was called to undertake. First she worked with senior citizens and those with emotional problems. Then she volunteered for peace organizations: the Quaker American Friends Service Committee, the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission and the United Nations Council of Philadelphia and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

As she entered her midlife, Mildred began to radically simplify her life. She decided to get rid of unnecessary possessions and frivolous activities. She dissolved her unhappy marriage. She became a vegetarian, disciplined herself to live on ten dollars a week, and pared down her wardrobe to two dresses. Her goal was to “experience and learn to appreciate the great freedom of simplicity.”

She described this period as a time when she was engaged in a great struggle between ego and conscience, or between her “lower, self-centered nature,” and the “higher, God-centered nature.” She strived to overcome selfishness in order to attain inner peace and spiritual maturity.

Mildred joined the Endurance Hiking Club and took wilderness treks to increase her physical strength and to gain experience in simple living. In 1952 she became to the first woman to walk the entire 2,050-mile length of the Appalachian Trail in one season.

Life on the trail agreed with her. Hiking reinforced her belief in simplicity and confirmed her ability to live “in harmony at need level” for long periods of time, in all weather conditions. She managed to live outdoors for five months equipped with only a pair of slacks, one shirt one sweater, a blanket and two plastic sheets.

Her menu, morning and evening, was two cups of uncooked oatmeal soaked in water and flavored with brown sugar; at noon, she had two cups of double strength dried milk, plus any berries, nuts or greens that she found in the woods.

Her experience convinced her that material possessions were simply a burden, and that to achieve a daily state of grace, she would need to maintain that simplicity after she got off the trail.

Tomorrow: Peace Pilgrim – Part 2

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr and With Encouragement for President Barak Obama

We have been inundated lately on all fronts — economic, political, geophysical, meteorological, astrological, and spiritual — with threats of terror and trauma. These are indeed very scary times. What is at stake is our safety, our peace of mind, our centered inner selves, our very lives and the lives of all the species who share our planet home. Indeed, our Mother Earth, Herself, is very vulnerable right now.

What to do?

We can shrink in fear and wallow in our worries, just close down. Or we can use this time to work toward the expansion, openness, and love that we all know in our heart of hearts is possible.

Some might argue that we don’t have any choice in this upside down dangerous world and that we can’t affect what will happen. But even if we can’t immediately alter the course of human events on the world stage, we can certainly create change in our own lives and in all of the lives that we touch.

Our thoughts are the seeds of that change. We know that worrying is like praying for what we do not want. Instead, let us put our intentions, attention, and energy toward what we do want.

So our first order of business must be to stay positive. To entertain only positive possibilities. To imagine only affirmative alternatives. To surround ourselves with wholly uplifting, life-affirming people and influences. To align ourselves solely with the greater good so that our actions will be born of only the finest of our best intentions.

What we all have to do from now on is to stay alert, stay centered, stay calm, stay connected, and most important of all, keep talking. Talking, writing, protesting keeps the light of truth and tolerance shining upon the hidden agendas of governments, corporations, institutions, and individuals. Silence, like the dark of night, shelters nefarious deeds. Silence forgives violence.

I have been haunted recently by the words written by Martin Niemoller, a German Protestant pastor and head of the anti-Nazi Confessing Church. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, he was arrested for “malicious attacks against the state” and spent seven years in Dachau and Sachsenhausen until 1945 when he was released by the Allies.

“In Germany, they first came for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Catholic. Then they came for me — and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.”

Let us actively resist the urge to freeze when we are frightened and overwhelmed. Instead, let us breathe deeply to fill ourselves with the air of the ages, the oxygen than can calm us, the breath of new inspiration. And as we exhale, we can sing, chant, talk, shout out our reverence for life, our concern for each other, our care of the planet, and our sacred prayers for peace.

Be bold!    Make a statement!   Take a stand!    Make a difference!

 

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

Women’s Movement Is World Wide! Part 2

The Internationalization of Women’s Issues

By Luisita Lopez Torregrosa

Published: January 8, 2013

 

Separately, the Women in the World Foundation, which will have its fourth annual

conference in New York City in April, announced that a fund-raising appeal in the

name of Ms. Yousafzai had collected more than $100,000 in donations that the

foundation said would go toward girls’ education in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

 

Some progress has been made on that score. “In countries around the world, we

see women’s educational achievement growing to the point that in many countries,

more women than men are attending university,” says Liza Mundy, a fellow at the

New America Foundation and author of “The Richer Sex,” about the rising number

of female breadwinners. The near-fatal shooting of Ms. Yousafzai, she says,

“demonstrated the real import of schooling for girls and women, and it also shows

how deeply threatening this can be to extreme traditionalists.”

 

Taking on another big issue, Catalyst, a nonpartisan organization for the advancement

of women in business, is kicking off a plan to get more women onto corporate boards.

“We expect 2013 to be the year when momentum builds for women in leadership,”

Ilene H. Lang, Catalyst’s president and chief executive, said by e-mail. “Corporate

boards are top priority.” Women hold only 16.6 percent of Fortune 500 board seats.

To help close that gender gap, Catalyst plans to enlist chief executives who would

sponsor board-ready women into leadership positions. In Europe, Viviane Reding,

the commissioner for justice, is leading another big push for women on boards. Allied

activists have produced a register of thousands of board-ready women to counter

arguments that there is a shortage of qualified candidates.

A big lift to American women came with the record number of women (20) who won

seats in the U.S. Senate. The old tag “Year of the Woman” has been revived, and fresh

momentum injected into the campaign to elect a woman president in 2016.

 

It’s no news that Hillary Rodham Clinton – recovering from a blood clot and other illnesses

is the undisputed Democratic front-runner. But the names of Democratic female senators

also pop up, including Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York and the newly elected Elizabeth

Warren of Massachusetts.

 

The female senators make up just 20 percent of the 100-member Senate but are drawing

outsize attention. Known challenges await them in and out of Congress, like efforts to

restrict abortion rights and cut back or end federal funding for women’s health programs

like Planned Parenthood.

 

Familiar issues like equal pay, workplace policies, family-work balance and political power

haven’t gone away in the United States or anywhere else. Basic needs and basic rights

remain elusive for many women in the developing world. And those issues, too, will not go

away anytime soon.

 

But more women in more regions of the world are stepping up and living better lives, just

about everyone in the field agrees. And as the old women’s issues become global, the

expectations rise, and the challenges get larger.

 

With the globalization of women’s issues, world organizations are drumming up the

support of activists the world over, of marquee names and celebrities. At the first Trust

Women conference, convened by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International

Herald Tribune in London in December, participants and speakers – from Queen Noor of

Jordan to Christy Turlington – debated complex issues like sexual slavery, child marriage,

and the role of women in the Arab world.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.